Wilfried Bockelmann, above, vice president for research and technical development at Skoda, is a seasoned Volkswagen engine specialist. His major concern is to give Skoda cars their own character. Bockelmann talked to Automotive News Europe reporter Georg Auer about Skoda's future and why it still uses its old pushrod engines.
Many prospective customers say, 'I won't be seen in a Skoda.' How do you cope with that problem?
That is a long-term business. When you start out from an image of low quality, it is not enough to come up with average quality to overcome those image problems. You have to constantly be the absolute top in quality. Now we don't need to hide from anyone.
Are you just the Czech subordinate of VW, picking drivetrains out of the VW racks - or can you develop along your own lines?
All Skodas have at least one special Skoda aggregate such as drivetrain, engine or gearbox - and I don't mean VW parts that we assemble in Mlada Boleslav (Czech Republic). I mean aggregates that we develop and produce ourselves. Skoda built the first light-alloy engine within the VW Group. Actually, it goes back to an engine designed in 1935. Its valves are moved by pushrods and its crankshaft has three bearings.
That engine is still in Skoda's range?
Very much so. It is a seasoned light-alloy engine that is specially tuned for high low-end torque, not so much for high output. It is a highly comfortable engine to drive. We use three types of light-alloy engines in the Fabia and one in the Octavia. A special Skoda transmission is also used in the Fabia as well as in the VW Lupo and Seat Arosa.
Why do you still use such an old-fashioned engine?
It is not old fashioned at all. It is technically advanced and built to the highest standard. It works with modern fuel injection systems and will meet future emissions regulations.
Will the replacement for this engine be developed in Mlada Boleslav?
Definitely. It is my philosophy that you must have at least one engine that you have developed yourself and that you produce yourself. Otherwise the customer will not credit you as a competent manufacturer. Of course, it would not be sensible or cost effective to create an all-new engine. We are developing the VW Group's EA 111 engine, which mostly is built as a 1.4-liter unit but also ranges from 1.0- to 1.6-liters. We intend to change the number of cylinders, develop a new combustion method and use alternative materials.